Credit: Blane Perun

How Do Coral Reefs Work

Have you been wondering, “how do coral reefs work and what are their basic structure and components that make these marvelous underwater environments so efficient?” You’ll find that the reef ecosystem is a highly complex and intricate system that features a large variety of plant life, algae and animals capable of using the “infrastructure” of the reef to its maximum potential, in order to obtain energy and shelter designed for rest and reproduction.

Despite the fact that individual coral polyps are roughly 3 millimeters long, large populations of these creatures can do a lot to preserve and maintain the coral reef ecosystem. How do coral reefs work, and what are the roles of these tiny creatures? Coral polyps are in charge of secreting the limestone that makes up the huge supportive skeletons of coral reef habitats. These skeletons house millions of creatures and thousands of species of fish, sea snakes, copepods and many other unusual creatures and plant life. Together with soft corals, seaweed, sea urchins, seagrasses and many other static animal and plant life, stony corals also contribute to providing energy and cleaning up the water around the coral reef system to create a hospitable environment for consumers to be introduced.

Coral reef habitats typically contain three major zones that scientists recognize. These zones make it possible for the reef to operate as an efficient protective and supplying environment that offers food and shelter to numerous animals. How do coral reefs do that? Their structure includes an exterior, deeper fore reef area, the reef crest, where the polyps are situated, and the back reef, which is the sheltered area that is shielded by the reef crest. The three areas are ecologically connected, and each has its own distinct variety of marine species that serve different purposes. While the reef crest and fore reef area are able to withstand stronger currents and attenuate their energy, the back reef is the shallowest region and the one where most of the plants grow. Here you can find the bulk of all the food and breeding areas that are under the protection of the coral reef formation.

Darwin’s Paradox essentially points out that, even though coral reefs develop in areas where sediment and nutrients are scarce, they are still among the most efficient systems in the world. Part of this is due to the fact that coral reef ecosystems are able to recycle, which means they need fewer nutrients. Also, they rely a great deal on sunlight, which provides them with ideal energy levels. Finally, corals absorb nutrients and minerals such as nitrogen and phosphorus directly from ocean water.

Blane Perun

Diver - Photographer - Traveler

Whale in Ocean